19 May 2008

Yet another Flight 93 Memorial design controversy

The Flight 93 National Memorial planned for Shanksville, PA has hit yet another snag. Following on the heels of the red crescent controversy, a variety of faculty are now creating a new hubbub about the authorship of the actual design for the site.

Today's NY Times reports that 2 professors, Madis Philak and Lisa Austin, are contesting Paul Murdoch's claims of exclusive authorship for his winning entry in the design competition. And, to spice things up a bit, the co-chair of the design solicitation committee is Tim Baird, a colleague Madis' at Penn State. (Tim is also an LSU grad - Geuax Tigers!) At the heart of the challenge is the concern expressed over how much Murdioch's initial proposal changed going into the second design phase. The Times reports:

“What’s interesting is if you look at his Phase I proposal and compare it to what his proposal is now,” Ms. Austin said, “our design is a closer match to his final design than his first is.”

Among the ideas they believe were taken from their plan are a tracing of United Flight 93’s path rendered by a break in two walls, the inclusion of buildings used by investigators in the wake of the crash, the use of abandoned mining machinery in the design, and the planting of September-blooming coneflowers.

As these plagiaristic charges became increasingly public, Philak and Austin submitted a paper to a national parks conference, “Designing the Parks”, where they thought that their paper was temporarily removed from the agenda because of Murdoch's manipulations. But, tomorrow they will be presenting their paper and the audience can decide whether or not this is a design catastrophe or classic coincidence.

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